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URBAN HIKE

Stairway to Heaven - Trek to the Highest Streets
updated: Nov 05, 2011, 9:30 AM

By the Urban Hikers, Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann

This week we cover some of the most rugged and rural territory in Santa Barbara. During several of these hikes we often felt we were a world apart from the buzz of the city, and yet we weren't at all. Perhaps our perceptions were due to the fact that we were hiking along the highest streets and neighborhoods Santa Barbara has to offer.

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And now we briefly pause for a confession from one of the Urban Hikers: Prior to embarking on our "walk every street in the City of Santa Barbara" project, while driving the streets of the most yonder territory in the city I would often wonder if I could find my way out alive...sometimes it occurred to me that I might have crossed the county line and ended up somewhere in Ojai - especially if I was driving at night. But after hiking this area during daylight hours, I can reassure you that what seems like an otherworldly maze isn't one at all. There are a few main arteries up there, and if you know your way around them, you're golden. Some of the streets to know and love are: Mountain Drive, West Mountain Drive (which is actually East of Mountain Drive), Gibraltar, El Cielito Road and Lane, Las Canoas, and Mt. Calvary. Next week we'll take you on the rest of the mountainous roads, and wrap up our exploration of this rural and wonderful part of our town.

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There were several remarkable features of the neighborhoods we covered during these hikes, including views galore, ancient boulders, majestic oaks (and other notable trees), two wonderful parks (Parma and Skofield), a few icons, interesting signage, surprising historical highlights and a couple of things even those familiar with the area might not know about. We begin with a couple of basic views shots...

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Aside from amazing mountain and ocean views, this area is full of natural beauty - case in point, gorgeous boulders and magnificent trees. We found that some of the residents are quite protective of their boulder fields, including this one who has multiple intimidating signs around the perimeter of his property, which is located at the end of the world...this sign reads, "CLOSED CIRCUT TELEVISION AND AUDIO ON PREMISES". Really?

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Others seem to prefer to use their boulders for practical purposes...like security system housings, accenting their signs and even walls...

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After viewing lots and lots of rocks and trees we've decided we like them best in their natural state.

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We came across several lichen-covered trees that prominently line one street on our hike...and from another street and vantage point we could see an orchard of olive trees in the distance. We've heard the orchard dates to Missionary times, and served as the Padre's olive source...if so, they must be very fire resistant olive trees.

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Skofield Park and Parma Park are two city-run and maintained parks in this part of Santa Barbara. They are well-loved by hearty souls who prefer to recreate in a natural environment. Suffice to say, we Urban

Hikers have plenty of great memories from our years spent wandering in and about these sublime public areas.

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And check out the very cheery paragliders we encountered on Gibraltar Road as they headed up the mountain to launch. Ironically, this road, built during the 1930's, was originally known as Depression Drive. Although officially renamed Gibraltar (because it takes you to Gibraltar Dam), many old-timers still refer to it as Depression Drive. But we digress...we believe that at least one of these smiling paragliders probably ended up at Parma Park, which is a popular landing spot for these brave men and women.

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We also encountered a few iconic signs and symbols of this area, along with a few other lesser known signs. Each of these tickled our fancy for one reason or another...it's true that we get a little giddy on some of these hikes, and this may have been one of those days...

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In all of Santa Barbara there is one beautiful little bridge we will shamelessly claim as the fairest of them all, and it just happens to be in this neighborhood. We suspect that many of our readers have traveled across this little beauty on the way to a hike in Rattlesnake Canyon. What we discovered on the day of our official urban hike, is that this sweet little old bridge is significantly older than we had once believed. We used to believe it was constructed during the Depression, but during our hike, we located a date stamp that reads "1919". So cool.

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One of our favorite gardens in all of Santa Barbara is also located in this area, and has been lovingly tended for decades. It's in a place that is so perfect and so private that photographing it well is nearly impossible. But we'll share with you what we managed to capture of this truly enchanted secret garden.

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And lastly, as promised, we'll tell you about two things of interest we passed along the way, which even most locals probably haven't had the pleasure of knowing or seeing. One is a massive water tank (there are more of these around town than you would imagine!), and the other is an interesting (old?) cart that adds a rustic charm to the ‘hood. These are the types of finds we've made along all of our urban hikes, thanks to being on foot.

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Next week we'll continue or ramblings of the "upper 40", and come back down to earth...But until then, we encourage you to go out and explore the city, meet your neighbors, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, expect the unexpected.

 

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